The bill to modify the school transfer law is almost law; the bill is now waiting for the governor’s signature. I hope the governor considers these two things:
• The newly signed bill no longer pays for transportation for transferring students. A student from Normandy will no longer have a free bus ride to Francis Howell next year. This is a compromise made for the sake of the sending, unaccredited district: to help that district avoid bankruptcy, it will no longer have to pay to transport its students to another district. But because of this compromise, a lot fewer students will be able to transfer! In other words, the Legislature had to destroy the transfer law in order to save it.
• Accreditation depends in large part on MAP scores. Accordingly, students in unaccredited, i.e., low-MAP score districts are allowed to transfer to accredited, higher-MAP score districts, at the cost of the original district. MAP scores, then, are very, very important. But if that’s the case, why does the revised transfer law allow receiving districts the option of not counting the MAP scores of the new transferees for their first five years in the new district (if they charge 70 percent or less of their own tuition to the sending district)? MAP scores are important, and yet, they don’t have to count, at least not for five years. Again, to save what’s (ostensibly) important, we have to discount it.
We’ve had a year of experience now with the school transfer law. We’ve seen that to make the transfers affordable, they have to be impracticable for most, and we’ve learned that to persuade receiving school districts to accept transferees so that those transferees can achieve, we have to agree to set aside their achievement for five years. Instead of destroying the transfer law in order to save it, the Legislature could, in fact, just destroy it. They could repeal the original law from 1993 that gave us this situation. Then next year they could start out fresh and deal with the question: What to do with unaccredited school districts?
Steve Findley • Maplewood